The best documentary about Chicago House Music is contained in a 5 minute segment of a film about a basketball player.
Benji is a feature documentary from film making tandem Coodie and Chike which made its television debut a week ago on ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series. House Music shouldn’t be the sole reason you watch it – the tragedy of acclaimed high school basketball phenom Ben Wilson is staggering. But among other bits of texture and detail, it gives you some idea of what House Music once meant for kids on the South Side of Chicago.
Ben Wilson was ranked as the #1 basketball player in the nation in 1984 as he entered his senior season at Chicago’s Simeon (pronounced “sim-ee-on”) High School. On November 20, 1984, he was shot on Vincennes Avenue as he walked his girlfriend, Jetun Rush, to the bus. Benji died the next day, leading to a seizure of outrage and grief by the people of Chicago.
For a brief moment, following their Class AA state championship, Benji and his teammates were the toast of the town. And as the narrator says:
The soundtrack of this summer  was House Music.
It’s pretty common (especially these days now that premiere tracks are available for licensing) to “backtrack” films – to play, say, a Kanye track for a documentary about the 1980s. But Coodie and Chike (best known, in fact, for their music videos for Kanye) nail it. The original score for the film is actually co-produced by none other than Steve “Silk” Hurley, who also appears on camera:
“We had a technique where we’d pull the bass out, wait for the exciting part and then BAM.”
R Kelly (a former teammate of Ben Wilson) also appears; and if you’re a longtime reader of my interviews, you have it on the authority of none other than Chosen Few founder Wayne Williams that R Kelly was indeed a househead.
This isn’t the first time House Music has surfaced in a documentary about Chicago hoops. You might remember the graduation party scene in Hoop Dreams, in which a young Arthur Agee gets down to Mike Dunn’s “Magic Feet”.